Book by Peggy Hawley
Review by Karen L. Archambault
Director, Student Services, Branch Campus and Higher Education Centers
Brookdale Community College
Smart is good; knowledgeable is better. This is the core argument of Peggy Hawley’s Being Bright is Not Enough. Hawley argues that the high number of doctoral students who never achieve the doctoral degree is less a matter of intelligence and more a matter of knowing how to navigate the system and its processes. In this book her goal is to provide a step-by-step guide to the doctoral process; a laudable goal but one that results in a somewhat disjointed read.
In Being Bright, Hawley suggests that doctoral students who succeed fit better with their institutions, areas of study, and faculty than those who do not. By acknowledging this, Hawley sets the stage for presenting doctoral students with a system to better choose their topics, dissertation chairs, committees, and research methods. Having just completed my own dissertation, I assert that Hawley has captured the very essence of doctoral study; success comes as much from relationships, fit, and confidence as from traditional intelligence.
In the first two chapters, Hawley provides a framework that allows prospective doctoral students to ask the question “Is this right for me?” Rather than pursuing advanced education simply as a matter of course, Hawley challenges readers to consider thoughtfully what the pursuit truly requires. The next five chapters shift the direction of the text significantly to the nuts and bolts of doctoral work: selecting a dissertation topic and chair, writing the proposal and dissertation, and defending one’s work. While this information is valuable, the level of detail provided might be better suited for a different audience than those reading the first chapters. For example, the author explains differences between random sampling, stratified random sampling, and disproportionate sampling. The reader who simply wants to understand the doctoral process may well be overwhelmed and may have been better served by a more in depth discussion about the role of coursework which is only mentioned in passing. In the final chapter, Hawley shifts gears once again, addressing the support needed from the family and friends of doctoral students. Again, this information is of great value but perhaps not intended for the same reader as the earlier chapters.
Readers who have survived the doctoral process will surely find themselves nodding their heads in agreement at the challenges Hawley describes. For those who are considering the doctorate, the work provides an accurate snapshot of how different this pursuit is from any other. Other texts, such as Cone and Foster for writing the dissertation and Ayers for the decision making process in degree pursuit, provide a more complete view of each of Hawley’s somewhat divergent topics – deciding to pursue the degree, completing the dissertation, and finding support. While advisors at different stages of doctoral pursuit would be well served by perusing this text, it is better as a reference work on the advisor’s bookshelf than as a cover-to- cover primer for doctoral study.
Ayers, K. F. (2006). To whom much is given: The definitive guide to demystifying the doctoral experience for women, volume 1. Ann Arbor, MI: Esperanza Communications.
Cone., J.D., and Foster, S. L. (2001). Dissertations and theses from start to finish: Psychology and related fields. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Being bright is not enough: The unwritten rules of doctoral study (3rd Edition). (2010). Book by Peggy Hawley. Review by Karen L. Archambault, Ed.D. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 174 pp. $49.95. ISBN # 978-0-398-07923-9